With a degree in Spanish and a dad and brother who live in Spain, I should be champion of all things Spanish, right? Yes and no. I love that this cool, refreshing, easy-to-dump-a-load-of-vegetables-into-your-bod soup has made its way across the Pond and onto many a summer menu. Of course it has: it’s cheap and can be made in advance. What’s not to love? Well, as it has drifted and been “improved”, it has – in some cases – morphed into canned tomato slop and lost the complexity of flavors that an authentic gazpacho (or “gathpacho” as we Castilian-speakers say) brings to the table.
As soon as I see a recipe calling for tomato juice or, Heaven forbid, V8, I’m scurrying as fast as my little legs can carry me. I understand the nutritional value of a bowl full of raw vegetables and, as someone who has struggled with weight management issues for most of my life, I love that I can down this stuff and feel appropriately virtuous. But, I want more. I want sexy. I want unctuous, velvety texture. I want a color that beckons. I want a subtle whiff of garlic. I don’t want to be burping for hours afterwards because the darned thing is too acidic.
So, after visiting Dad in Murcia and Paul in Alicante last Fall, we headed up to Barcelona where I found IT, served in a copita with the typical Catalan pan con tomate or Pa Amb Tomaquet. Here it is:
Did I ask for the recipe? Of course not, I’m English. I’m far too polite. Plus our server was Brazilian and we were more preoccupied with finding a bottle of cachaca to take to a Brazilian friend whom we were on our way to stay with in France. (Shameless plug: www.blancsursanctus.fr). Plus we might have had some wine and I might have been ready for a nap.
Fast forward to Florida summer and I’m dreaming of ga”th”pacho but only the orange kind. One plea on Facebook and my delightful Dutch friend Sasha stepped up to the plate. Sasha spent time in Madrid in 1977 where she was shown how to make an orange gazpacho and has used only this recipe since. It’s not that tomatoes are bereft from the recipe. On the contrary, you’ll need about half a pound. Sasha uses coeur de boeuf but she lives in Amsterdam. I live on a barrier island in Florida, 12 miles from the nearest causeway and light years away from a farmers’ market so I use the least exposed to chemicals that I can find.
Before I give the recipe, here’s a word of warning. After testing my gazpacho for texture, I accidentally switched the Vitamix to High instead of Off. Not only was the kitchen splattered, but my husband’s face was in the blender at the time. It took him a full five minutes to start laughing. I was very concerned since my laughometer kicked in at about 20 seconds. The stuff was everywhere, even in my ears. The next morning I had globs of it in my hair but since I’m a redhead, it looked like a highlight. An edible highlight at that. Please put the lid back on your blender before you get clever or this is what happens:
And here’s the finished product. Thank you so much, Sasha. It’s the gazpacho of my dreams. Note the lack of onions and V8. This gazpacho is silkily smooth and delicately flavored, and, er, doesn’t make you burp.
1 pound of tomatoes, seeded.
1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded.
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and roughly diced
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
Zap all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add ice cold water to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on the rocks. Optional garnishes are cubed day-old white bread, diced bell pepper and chopped hard boiled egg.